Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to Cricinfo Talk. I have with me former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on Sri Lanka's convincing win over India at the P Sara stadium, a win that helped them win the series 2-1.
Sanjay, Sri Lanka were clearly the better team throughout the series - what do you think was the main difference between the two sides?
Sanjay Manjrekar: I think it was the bowling attack that made the difference. In the first innings of this series, Sri Lanka got in excess of 600 runs and that was because the Indian bowling attack wasn't good enough to restrict them to anything around 300. And again in this final Test, it was the bowling attack that made the difference. One of the other reasons was that the strength of the Indian batting was diminished because of uncertainties in the minds of the four stalwarts in the middle order.
But the real differentiating factor was the bowling attack. Chaminda Vaas, whoever the second seamer was, Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan were a far better attack compared to Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
AR: Sri Lanka look virtually unbeatable at home, and once they get the likes of Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando back in the squad, do you think they can be a force outside their country as well, up there with the likes of South Africa and Australia?
SM: Well they won't look as good and strong as they do at home. I still feel that their batting can be exposed. I still think it is heavily dependent on Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. There is a bit of class missing among the other batsmen and that could be tested against really good bowling attacks. There were some signs of the age factor catching up with Murali. He wasn't as vicious a spinner of the ball as he was two or three years ago. He has now got some support from Mendis which is a great help. But if foreign teams play Sri Lanka in conditions that don't suit the Lankans - on more responsive pitches where the bowling attack will be dominated by the fast men -then the Sri Lankan batting could struggle a bit. And if the opposing team can also manage Mendis, then Sri Lanka is vulnerable.
AR: India's middle order has struggled throughout this series, though VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid did show some fight in the last innings. Do you now continue to play them on the basis of their reputations, or has the time come for a change?
SM: This issue has to be tackled professionally and we tend to go the wrong way around when it comes to tackling an issue like this. It needs to be addressed by the head of Indian cricket: whether it is the president himself or a representative of the Cricket Review committee. That person along with the chairman of selectors, the current Test captain and MS Dhoni - the one-day captain - should all sit down and discuss what their plans are for Indian cricket for the next two to three years. They have to have a goal in their mind and if there is still place for some of the senior players in those goals, then they should continue with them. If not, then they need to look at who are the players they can sideline and look to get in some new blood. That is the way to go about it.
What we tend to do is, we focus on the individual: can Saurav Ganguly be dropped? No he scored runs in the last series, he can't be dropped. Can VVS Laxman be dropped? No he made a fifty in the last innings, he can't be dropped. We tend to go about it individual-based which is wrong. The decision regarding where Indian cricket should go in the next few years should be taken at the highest level and along with that, the captains should be asked whether they want certain players around or whether they want young blood in the team.
AR: But just looking at the way the four stalwarts, as you have mentioned, have played in the series, do you think they still merit a place in the middle order, given that the next Test series is against Australia at home, or is it time to give some youngsters a chance?
SM: They youngsters shouldn't be given a chance just for the sake of it. Even though they haven't shown good form in this series, it doesn't make sense to drop all form of them. There has been some form shown by Laxman and Dravid; you can't just drop all four of them because you want to get in young blood. The captain in charge - whether it is Kumble or someone else - has to decide who is going to help Indian cricket for the next few years and those players should stick around.
I believe that Sachin Tendulkar still has a lot of cricket left in him; he can still contribute to the Indian team, and so can Dravid. I have a feeling that Ganguly might just struggle to keep his place in this Test team - that is something that is quite likely. But importantly the bosses of Indian cricket have to decide where this team is headed - whether they are on the right track - and that kind of review has to happen every six months.
AR: Sri Lanka can take away many positives from this series - the biggest being the performance of Mendis, but are there any positives that India can take away at all?
SM: Yes there are a few positives that India can take out from this series. Their opening combination looks good but I would have a word with Gautam Gambhir and put some pressure on him to go and get the big scores once he gets the starts in the Tests. That really helps the team and that is how Virender Sehwag makes an impact. He gets big scores and then the poor form of some players doesn't hurt the team as much. That is something that Gambhir needs to be told very early in his career, otherwise you get into the habit of scoring 50s and 70s and being happy about it.
There was lot of spirit shown by the fast bowlers, Zaheer and Ishant in trying conditions which was excellent. Harbhajan has had an encouraging comeback. He has not had a good time in the last few months and it is good to see that he is making headlines for his bowling and not anything else. And his contribution in India's win in the second Test was a positive sign.
|Jayawardene has to be one of the best captains in recent times. He is a more instinctive captain and seemed more in control of his team.His greatest contribution to the team was his faith in Mendis and in the way he used him|
The wicketkeeping worries me. I think Dinesh Karthik was thoroughly exposed. Parthiv Patel was slightly better but he is missing regular collections. I think it is the responsibility of the National Cricket Academy - with Ravi Shastri and Dav Whatmore - to see why our wicketkeeping is not up to international standards. Dhoni has been fine but the two options after him have been quite disappointing.
AR: How do you think the two captains stacked up - both in terms of performance and the way they captained?
SM: I think Kumble was just being himself. That is the way he leads and has led when India has been successful in the past. He was just hurt by his own bowling form and by the poor form of some his batsmen.
Jayawardene has to be one of the best captains in recent times. He is a more instinctive captain and seemed more in control of his team, which was playing well and he has also been around for a while and is a more experienced captain than Kumble. It is easy to pick the better captain when you have a team playing so well and it is obvious that Jayawardene has come out looking good. His greatest contribution to the team was his faith in Mendis and in the way he used him.
AR: We saw the review system being trialled out - is it something that is here to stay?
SM: My biggest problem with the review system is that a lot of the attention is taken away from the game. We made some calculations and close to an hour and 45 minutes were spent on the review system. Which means, for an hour and 45 minutes, the attention was taken away from the game, and instead it was focussed on the umpires and technology. Do you want that to happen in sports? A lot of other sports have experimented with technology and they have given up on it. There is no place for technology in football or baseball; American football experimented with it and gave it up.
I am a little negative about the review system. It worked fine as an experiment: there were so many people who wanted to see how it would work so it was good to experiment with it. But at this stage, I don't like it too much. People are talking about tweaking it a little but it is again going to have so many grey areas - once you go down that road, there will always be some new technology that will make the current one that you have redundant. But we will be discussing more on this review system in the next Cricinfo Roundtable that will be coming up shortly.
AR: Thank you Sanjay for your views throughout this Test series. Until next time, it's goodbye.
Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. @sanjaymanjrekar
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